We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Old Tucson

      Saturday...the bambini's slept in...Autumn until 7:30, Tonio until 8 and Cody, who slept at Jesus' (yes, we missed him!), texted me at 10 to say he had just woken up!  We had decided to go to Old Tucson today...Jaimelyn's (Barnes & Noble) husband, Scott, had been a stunt man there for many years and they have graciously hooked us up over the years with free passes.  Scott recently found a better job, as an sculptor and gave us the last of his passes :(  
         And what a gorgeous day for it!  We hit a high of 80 today, blue skies, no clouds.  We picked up Lexy and headed out (minus Cody, who opted to stay with Jesus today).  It is a beautiful drive to Old Tucson, through the towering saguaro cacti, thick as a forest as far as the eye can see...The Tucson mountains are pretty, too, many of them showing up in old westerns that were filmed at Old Tucson.
        As we approached, I remembered our wedding day...when we took our wedding party to Old Tucson after the ceremony at San Xavier Mission.  It was much hotter that day...and Old Tucson looked significantly different...a few years after our wedding, most of Old Tucson burned to the ground.  The night we heard it was burning, Kim and I drove out there, parked in the desert and watched it burn, in each others arms, tears streaming down Kimmy's cheeks..."we were there on our wedding day..." she cried.  And many others, too, as we had quickly become members and went often.
       They did not have adequate water on site to battle the blaze...it took several years to rebuild Old Tucson, but, the owners had a decision to make.  Should they rebuild as a movie studios, or a theme park.  Unfortunately, they chose theme park and rebuilt using a lot of cement, instead of the old wood planking that gave the original Old Tucson the old west charm and authenticity.  They also reduced the number of shows, and pretty much eliminated the audience participation.  Kim and I had been selected for many shows when we'd go out and they'd have you go into wardrobe to put on old west clothes.  Kim was in a great skit on Main St. one year, where she got to throw a big punch and knock a bad guy off his feet (I'm sure it was a thrill for the stunt man to take a dive for Kimmy!). They also had a movie set inside, where you could watch shows and participate, too.  I once was in the production of  'The Good, the Bad and the Dumb' and still have the VHS that Kim had bought of the skit to surprise me.
       Sometimes, after work, Kim would pack us a dinner and we'd head out to Old Tucson with Cajun, our lab/border collie pup. 
    We would sit at this very picnic table, in the shade of this mesquite and eat.  I remember one time, she packed spaghetti in some sort of warming bag.  We'd put Cajun right up on the table, so she wouldn't run off and wouldn't get bitten by ants (she suffered a few red ant bites on time on a hike we took in Avra Valley along some water they have down there) and we'd share our dinner with her.  Afterward, we'd all ride the train.  You can't take pets there anymore, sadly.  We found out the hard way, shortly after we got Bella, we went out to enjoy the park and they wouldn't let her in!  The kids were so dissappointed, so Kimmy stayed in the car with Bella, so I could run through a few rides with the kids - that was Kimmy, always sacrificing for our family.
     One year, we had Cody's birthday party at Old Tucson.  He had a huge Scooby Doo pinata that we hung from a large tree for his friends to hit.  We had food and the cake in one of the restaraunts there that had been named after 'The Three Amigos' ('80's film starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short that was filmed at Old Tucson and is a Conca family favorite!), that is now called Vaqueros.
      Old Tucson hosted concerts for awhile.  We went to see Blue Oyster Cult there one time and Eddie Money (not sure why, but we had fun!), who was pretty funny, although I'm not sure if he was trying to be.  Cody must have been one or two for that concert and seemed to enjoy the music.  We saw America and Three Dog Night there, too - I guess on of the guys from Three Dog Night lives in Tucson.  And they also used to hold rodeos there - we saw several, including a college one.  Good times...
      Now, most of the old rides are closed or have been altered.  Like the Iron Door Mine, used to have mine cars that took you through a haunted mine.  Now, you walk through with a guide.  Lexy, Autumn and Tonio enjoyed it today, our guide had some good stories and the kids had a couple of scares, too.

          Without a doubt, their favorite ride was the motor cars.  There were no lines, so they would ride, get off and run back to the front to ride again...this was Tonio's first time he was tall enough to ride himself...so I got plenty of photos, as I know Kimmy would have - she would have teared up to see our little one finally able to ride alone...
          And we road the train...it circles the perimeter of the park and the mountain views are stunning...

            This locomotive was a real working train built in 1897 and carried presidents and celebrities.  It has shown up in 100 movies, including Joe Kidd (classic Clint!) and Tombstone.  The kids were able to climb up into it and had fun playing with all of the controls.  We saw a couple of good gunfights, locked the kids up in jail and checked out every inch of that place!

         Finally, it was time to leave...we were there about four hours!  I took the road through Gates Pass on the way out and the kids thought it was so beautiful, twisting up through the Tucson Mountains.  And, we were pretty hungry!  Being on that side of town, I thought I'd take the kids to El Rio bakery for some food.

           Ahh, some great food!!!  Everyone ate a ton (Lexy had carne asade, Aut a chicken tostada, Tonio a bean and cheese burrito bigger than his head and I had the chile relleno) and they all saved room for desert!
          As we drove down Speedway towards home, I realized that I had made a location error a few blogs ago...Rosie's Cantina had been on the corner of Speedway and 6th, not Euclid...now there is a preschool there...so where Kim and I once dined and dance, toddlers are crawling across that very floor...
          We stopped at a Redbox on the way home and the kids picked out a movie to watch tonight...but now, Lexy and Autumn are having a 'dance party' in our hallway!  They choreograph dances to their favorite songs and put up posters advertising their big show...pretty cute. 
          We sure had fun at Old Tucson today and it brought back good memories.  We had actually made it out there as a family back in early October, just before Kim went into St. Joseph's...Tonio brought it up as we explored the set of High Chapparal, the '60's t.v. show filmed there.  He suddenly said, 'Dad, we were just here right before Mama went into the hospital, I remember her talking to a lady who had known some of the t.v. stars..'.  He was right.  There had been a lady on one of the sets who fondly remembered working with the cast of the show while it was being filmed and Kim had been fascinated...
          'Nother good day, ending a pretty darn good week...next week:  Back to work!



Friday, February 11, 2011

Parent/Teacher Conferences...

    Parent/Teacher conferences were this week...I always feel bad for the teachers.  They cram in 25 + visits, usually over two or three days, and they must be exhausted.  I love the parents who go in and are surprised with how their kids are doing...or one set today, who's child wasn't doing so good, asked the teacher what she intended to do to make her child understand better.  So, yes, I empathize with these teachers, at this time of year - they work hard, take care of our kids for 6 1/2 hours a day and still face parent who have no idea of what is going on...
    This was one of Kim's favorite times of the school year.  She always made sure to bring in some sort of treat, to show our appreciation for the teacher's hard work (especially the poor teacher who had to handle Antonio!).  I wanted to do something like she would have done....but I choked, but did manage to bring Mrs. Schrantz a coke and Mrs. Rudzena and iced tea...
     All of the teachers knew, to have plenty of tissues on hand for Kimmy.  The teachers would be telling us all of our kid's accomplishments and saying nice things and Kimmy's heart would fill up, so proud and thankful for their hard work and the tears would flow...everytime...it was very sweet.  I actually made it through five teachers and my final teacher, Mrs. Lopez, Cody's algebra teacher, cracked me.  I quickly thanked her, gave her a big hug and ran out the door...
      But honestly, these teachers have not only been there academically for the bambini, but emotionally, as well, as they transition to our new journey.  Mrs. Schrantz has consistently been in tune with Tonio's sadness level, giving him jobs to do and making him feel special to keep his mind off of things.  Mrs. Rudzena, has shared her own loss of her father with Autumn, becoming almost a big sister to Autumn and filling her with confidence.  Cody's teachers, Mrs. Archuletta, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Payton and Mrs. Lopez, have all taken Cody aside to let him know they are there for him and have worked with him on his studies.  All of the kids have great grades!  We are so blessed to have these teachers!!  I'm not sure where we'd be without their dedication and compassion.
       After these conferences, I was completely blown up, emotionally spent. So proud of the kids, but wishing Kimmy could have been here with me to hear the praises, although I know she heard it all.  I did it solo. And I went home and pulled out another Andreaism...the ocean sound machine.  When Kimmy first got sick, Andrea bought her one of the Homedic sound machines.  Kim loved to fall asleep with 'white noise'. We've always had a fan or air purifier to lend that soothing sound to fall asleep to.  Kim loved the setting with the waves hitting the beach and used it nightly in the hospital and when she was home...When I have a tough moment, I will put on the beach sounds and just empty my mind...and it always helps.  Antonio loves it too, and turns it on every night before we go to sleep!
   After school, Lupe and Manny, who's daughter, Monsi, is in Tonio's class took Autumn and Tonio to Peter Piper Pizza, right after school and then back to their house to play.  They had so much fun.  Cody's friend, Jesus, invited Cody over for a sleep over.  After I got my bearings, I managed to make it over to Jesus' house to hang out with Monique and Joe for awhile, leaving to pick up Aut and Tonio and hanging out with Lupe and Manny for awhile (at least one beer) and then back to Monique and Joe's for pizza (and another beer).  We miss Cody already...
      It rounded out the week nicely - the kids all having great weeks - me too, except for falling down a little today.  We're getting there, one day at a time...

PS Mrs. Schrantz had her kids write a letter to their parents about what they think she will say about them...
Here's Tonio's:
       "Dear Mom and Dad,
                    My 2nd grade year has been unusually good!  I think Mrs. Schrantz will tell you that I'm doing fantastic.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


   You know, somebody commented to me recently over what a great memory that I have, to be able to write about all that Kimmy and I were blessed to do together...yes, I have so many great memories, but, it is amazing, day to day, what triggers them.  It's not as if all of them are right there on the surface, although, of course there are a lot there - keeping me going...but, simple things during the course of my day will help a hidden gem to come uncovered...
     Super Bowl Sunday, as I headed to 'Uncle Art's' for his Super Bowl party...we took I-10, and, as we passed the 22nd street exit, I caught a glimpse of the Howard Johnson's just west of the exit...and, just like that, I was awash in some great memories...
     I-10 and 22nd street is no place you ever want to stay, if you are visiting Tucson - my friend, Joe, who works for the Fire Department, says this is an excellent place to get mugged, or worse.  As an EMT, he has seen some hairy action in this vicinity.  And my friend, Brad, who works for the Tucson Police Department, says it is an excellent place to get killed, or worse.  I believe them now, but, Kim and I had spent our share of time in Philly, and when you are in a bad neighborhood there, it is very apparent...Tucson is different, the bad areas just don't seem bad..
      And the nightly rate was $18.99!  That sounded good.  We loved that there was a Waffle House right across the street and ate there each morning (scrambled eggs w/ cheese and raisin toast! Kimmy's favorite!!).  We get up early, around 11 a.m., and head over there and plan our day...a little hiking (who cared that it was August?) and then, we'd find a place for dinner and some nightlife.  We knew where the University of Arizona was, so we'd just head down I-10, take the Speedway exit and look for a joint.  We ended up finding an all time favorite on the corner of Speedway and Euclid...Rosie's Cantina - at the Super Bowl party, I struggled to find the name of this place, but Janene remembered it and once she said Rosie's, I remembered we even had bought shirts there to commemorate our good times there!  They had great Mexican food and beer specials and the people working there were so friendly (well, our relatives who came out in December, all commented on how friendly people here in Tucson are - and why not, it is an incredible place to live!).  We danced and ate and had beers with limes in them and danced.  It was a great place.  By the time we moved here in 1994, it had been transformed into 'Cluck U Chicken'...we tried it, but it was not the same...I can't even think of what is on that corner now (southeast corner of Speedway and Euclid)...
         A favorite dinner spot was all the way down on Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon, in the shopping plaza on the southwest corner - it was called Jerome's and was just a beautiful place with great food - it was still there, briefly, when we moved back, living just up the street in apartments at Tanque Verde and Dos Hombres, and we went there a few times.
        So just driving by HoJo's, brought back the flood of great memories and vivid detail of our vacations here in Tucson all those years ago...that's how it happens!
        Well, we are nearing the weekend, and I'm so glad the bambinis all had a great week!  Today, was a half day and I picked up Tonio and Autumn first.  Mrs. Schrantz had been kind enough to allow Tonio to bring in his latest Lego creation to class today.  He was so proud - he chose the set himself and paid for it with his own money!  When we got home, he sat down, pulled out the directions and went to work building the dragon exactly as pictured...all by himself!
        Then, we ran over to Desert Willow and picked up Lexy and next, over to Desert Sky and grabbed Cody...we were off for a nutritious lunch at...In and Out Burger!!  We scarfed down burgers and fries and headed over to the 'cheap theaters', formally known as the dollar theaters, to see Megamind...this is a must see!  Will Farrell place the villian and Brad Pitt the hero...everyone loved it and we gorged on popcorn and candy.  The soundtrack was pretty good too, with some AC DC, Guns and Roses and ELO...anyone remember them?  They played "Mr. Bluesky", which was Kim's and my favorite off of 'Out of the Blue'...it took me right back to Nitschmann Junior High and the times we shared there. On the way home, we stopped at Circle K for drinks - I told Andrea, we had stuffed her poor daughter with a bunch of garbage all day!  But, we'd make up for it at dinner, serving up some...you guessed it!  Pasta!!  They had worked off the day's debauchery with a brisk run with Bella around the neighborhood.  Bella loves company.  The kids have taught her to play 'hide and seek'.  They throw her ball down the hallway and scatter to hide.  Bella will patiently hunt each kid down.  It is amazing and she has so much fun!
        We still had vodka sauce left, so we were able to treat everybody ('cept Breanna, who said she was too tired to eat, poor girl) to some angel hair.  Autumn and Lexy can really put away the pasta!  Does my heart good to see people enjoy pasta...The girls even eat big salads, too!
        Cody missed the pasta, having gone to Alex's house - Amy and Tom were nice enough to take him for some Mexican food down the road at the Rita Ranch Market and then they played video games for awhile...
       The stars had so much clarity tonight, when we stepped out to say goodnight - you do have to bundle up - I put on my cozy Italia hoodie and Tonio will leap right up into my arms and tell me he'll keep me warm if I carry him!  The moon is up to a half smile now, and we had a great view of the Big Dipper as we wished Mama a good night...

Hey there misses blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Ev'rybody smiles at you

Misses blue, you did it right
But soon comes mister night creepin' over
Now his hand is on your shoulder
Never mind I'll remember you this
I'll remember you this way

Yes, I changed mister into misses in these lyrics...fits better...



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vodka Sauce

     Kimmy made a killer vodka sauce...she typically like to make the butterfly pasta to put it over - she felt the larger pastas held the sauce better.  Today, feeling ambitious, I thought I'd make the sauce...I spent at least an hour searching for the recipe...all the while, a nagging memory of a dog eared recipe card, well loved, well used, in the back of my mind.  You see, she loved the recipe so much and made it for us so often, she had simply worn the card out, but, had it memorized!
     So, I got in touch with my sister, Lauren, who's recipe it was - she had shared it with Kim many years ago.  Laur came through and I was in business!
     Ok, so here it is, as Laur gave it to me:

             Heat sauce pot
             Put 2 TBSP of olive oil in pan and get that heated up
             Add 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced into oil and sautee (yes, 6-8 - look, if you don't think you can handle that much garlic, make something else, OK?  Kim's philosphy was 'if you can't stand the garlic, stay out of the kitchen!'
            Add 1/2 cup of Vodka (now, people will ask me 'Vodka? will I get drunk?  Well, the alcohol does burn off, unfortunately, during the cooking process, so if that is going to be a problem for you, just drink directly from the bottle as you are cooking to gain desired effect.) and bring to a simmer.
           Add 1 cup of heavy cream and bring to a boil, stir it!
           Add a 28 oz can of tomatoes (Laur recommends crushed ones, as it gets 'saucier')
           Season with basil, salt and pepper.

           Kimmy would always double this recipe, so we had extra - it freezes well, or it will last in fridge for about a week.  Also, Kim would add 1/2 cup of grated parm at the end and stir it in.  She always used fresh basil, 4-6 leaves when doubling the recipe and two bay leaves (remove before serving).
           Ok, there was a cooking show that Kim absolutely loved, called 'Sam the Cooking Guy'.  Sam was great, because he wasn't a 'foodee' or whatever the Food Network chef's call themselves.  He was down to earth, did the show out of his kitchen and was on PBS or the local network.  He was 'one of us', using common ingredients he already had around the house.  Kim loved when he was cooking a recipe and would say 'hey, could you add some corn to this recipe?', or some other ingredient.  She would often quote Sam.  So, in this spirit, I say "could you add some shallots to this recipe?"  Absolutely.  Two to three, chopped shallots taste pretty good in this recipe!  Kim would always run the batch through her blender to make it all smooth and 'saucier'.  There's a photo of Sam's cookbook above - watch for him! 
             The sauce is pretty easy to make and fast.  But, would it pass the scrutiny of the bambini??
Yes!  Bene!!  The bambini approved of the Vodka Sauce!!
              These guys love their pasta!!  They all ate two bowls and then I got them out front to burn off some of their energy and they played with Mitch, Hadley and Alex.  And now, Cody is at Alex's playing some video games...
             Tonio brought home some nice pieces he's been working on in Art class at school:
            This is a Warhol-esque self portrait he did (I know it is hard to see, but he is wearing a Philadelphia Flyers shirt!).  It looks as if all three kids have been blessed with Kimmy's artistic abilities!!

            The other day, Brian and I took Cody out through Fantasy Island.  Cody has so much energy, it is so good for him to get out and do some desert biking.  When we got there, Cody quickly talked Brian and I into going on a new trail he had done with Tom and his friend Dale, last time we went through.  We agreed and Cody led us through with his usual torrid pace.  He has one speed.  Fast. 
           And as we went through, I remembered the beautiful day I had the chance to take Kimmy through...as we passed through a Mesquite grove, I remember her saying how pretty it was...as we approached the huge Palo Verde tree further down the path, I remember there was a huge, black bull just beneath it, about three feet from the path...and Kimmy never saw it!  I remember her saying that she could not keep her eyes off of the mountain views, how incredible they looked!  And I warned her not to look for too long, or she'd be wearing some cholla or prickly pair!
           Then, Cody led us down the new path - the Fire Trail.   He narrated each new dip and turn, telling us all about the Field Goal as we approached.  It was a scenic, down hill, with a quick rise through two, perfectly placed saguaro cacti...no problem.  Next, we approached the Elbow Jammer...an almost straight down drop, that had two quick hills at the bottom.  Cody shot down the hill at break neck speed, negotiating the transition at the bottom and easing over both smaller hills at the bottom.  Brian navigated the drop without a problem...I almost made it.  As I hit the bottom, my left foot slipped and I instantly renamed the Elbow Jammer for a different part of my anatomy that I had jammed!  As I regained my footing, I hit the first hill and instantly blew out my back tire. I wasn't mad or dissappointed, I was feeling pretty happy that I had survived!  There was no way to repair my tire, so I gave my truck keys to Brian and told him and Cody to finish the trail and I'd hike out to Houghton road and meet them there.
             I hiked out to the road and remembered...they had just installed a brand new, barbed wire fence.  There sure is a lot of barbed wire out here - is Arizona the barbed wire state?  There would be no climbing through it.  I started following it until I came to a culvert and was able to slip beneath it.  Rather than sitting and waiting, I started walking south on Houghton to meet up with Brian and Cody...Dan, I was thinking of you as I slipped beneath the fence, I spotted an old Mets scarf stuck in the barbed wire - I was tempted to salvage it, wash it and mail it to you in Iowa...!  I hiked about 2 miles up Houghton and the guys picked me up...we'll try it again this weekend!

       Tonight, the bambini's want to watch 'The Incredibles'!  So we'll settle in soon to do that...another day has past - these guys seem to be doing better each day...school helps.  Antonio and Autumn stayed after school today and Mrs. Schrantz and Mrs. Rudzena helped them catch up their homework - they always leave happy and feeling a sense of accomplishment....

        And I tell them:

               " God gave you shoes to fit you.
                 So put them on and wear them.
                 Be yourself, be proud of who you are!
                 Even if it sounds corny,
                 Don't let anyone tell you you aren't beautiful"
                                                         - Eminem


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hair bands

   I noticed yesterday, when my Yahoo! home page popped up, that actress Tura Satana had passed away at the age of 72.  Her claim to fame was a cult classic by Russ Meyer called "Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill!", which was made back in 1965.  Now, I had never heard of her, or the movie, but, my curiosity was piqued, as there is the hair band, Faster Pussycat...so, I googled them, and sure enough, they named themselves after that movie!
   Faster Pussycat was best known for their 1989 hit "House of Pain".  I was talking to Mario about this, as he put in a new stereo in my truck (my old one gave up on me) this morning...and he immediately said 'yeh, I have that one on my I-pod'.  So do I now, along with a couple of their other 'classics'.  They had kind of a raw Aerosmith sound about them, with a funky bass line going on.  Kim and I bought tickets to see them, on one of their resurrection tours, back in 1995.  The night before the performance, their lead singer, Taime Downe, o.d.'d on heroin...he didn't die, just sick enough that he could not be here to entertain us...
    This led Mario and I to discuss other 'hair bands' that we've seen.  I mentioned that Kim and I had seen Britny Fox and Jackyl at a bar called 'The Cell Block' in Ben Salem, Pa.  It was right off of Rt. 1, and, as the name implies, a pretty tough joint.  We had a blast.  Kim caught a guitar pic thrown by one of Britny Fox's guitarists and after the show, I was able to get the band members of Jackyl to autograph my copy of their new CD...a landmark moment in my life and, as Kim used to like to joke, a great resume builder...Mario talked about seeing Tesla and Great White.  Oh yes, saw Tesla at The Trocadero in Philly (go to thetroc.com and click on venue, history - this place was built in 1870!).  It turned out to be the night they recorded a live CD.  Saw Great White at Red Rocks ampitheatre in Colorado - probably the greatest concert venue I've been too.  So beautiful, cut right out of the red rocks in the Rocky Mountain foothills just west of Denver.  They played with the Scorpions and Mr. Big - it poured so hard while the Scorpions were playing, but it did not stop them.  I think I've said this before, but Kim's all time favorite hair band was Cinderella, a Philly band made big by Jon Bon Jovi.  We saw them twice.
        Certain songs bring back vivid memories...is it that way for you too?  Some that bring back old memories of Kim and I are 'Learning to Fly' by Pink Floyd of a special time we shared at Kutztown University...'Amanda' by Boston, a song we'd pull over and slow dance to, where ever we happened to be...Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" remind me of times we reconnected in 8th grade and 11th grade...Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" bring back memories of the beach, in the mid-80's..."Radar Love" by Golden Earring of speeding through Canada on our long tour of the northeast...David Bowie...gosh, just about any David Bowie brings back memories of the times we saw him, going to the Lehigh Parkway...Some of Kim's recent favorite bands were Neon Trees, Train, Anberlin, Blue October, Paper Tongues, One Republic and the Script...and now, whenever I hear any of these bands...I can remember Kimmy enjoying their songs and smiling (but she'd never sing in front of me..).

          Earlier today, we took Kimmy's truck back and rolled up the banner.  What a nice tribute Sean and the Toros made for Kim - she got her chance to say thank you...Sean and I talked about how dissappointing it was that we would not have baseball in Tucson this year...Come on Tucson, if we can't compete in Spring Training, at least let us have some AAA baseball again!  Pitchers and catchers report next week already...But I am so grateful to Sean for not only engineering Kim's banner and truck, but financing it, too.  Again, this wonderful community we live in just keeps on giving.
         The bambini's did well in school today.  Mrs. Schrantz reported that Tonio got an E+ on a paper he wrote about why it would be so cool to have a penguin as a pet...one who could catch its own tilapia.  Cody brought his friend Alec over and they played Wii and jumped their bikes out front with our neighbor, Alex.  Later, we settled in to watch one of Kim's favorites, The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (she absolutely loved their chemistry, especially in 50 First Dates)...
         ...and as I tried to find the once again elusive sleep, I thought of one of the Andreaisms I've adopted - there are so many others out there worse off then me, facing similiar challenges - in fact, when people say 'I can't believe how well you are doing', I tell them about the less fortunate.  Andrea and Mario recently ran across an old classmate, who has fallen on hard times, raising several children as a single mom, living in a crime ridden apartment complex and battling depression, barely able to take care of her kids, living in squalor... we all have our ups and downs to deal with...so rather than laying in bed at night and weeping about it, I count my blessings and think about all that I am thankful for...

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Monday, February 7, 2011


   Those of you who have known Kim and I for a long time, know that we never went on 'dates'.  We didn't start having kids until we were 32, so had a lot of time to do so many of the things we wanted to...and, we felt, that our kids were our life and we genuinely enjoyed including them in all we chose to do.  The very first time we ever had baby sitters for the kids, to go do something, was when Rosa and Vito's son Joe and Deanna got married just a few years back (other than that, Andrea watched Cody and Autumn for us when Antonio was born...which wasn't much of a date for Kim! Although, she did literally laugh Tonio out!  The Dr. told her not to push yet, I said something that struck Kimmy funny and she couldn't stop laughing..and out came Tonio!!).
    But, it occured to me the other day, as I drove to Target and other 'fun' destinations for the ever depleted toiletries and household needs, that Kim and I actually enjoyed running errands together.  We'd map out what we needed and where we needed to go.  Kim always checking ads and jotting down prices, etc to try to keep us on track.  Target was a favorite spot for a mango smoothie or some coffee from Starbucks.  If we had time, we'd get over to Viro's and see Rosa and Vito for some lunch.  Sometimes, we'd do a few errands, go see a movie at the 'dollar' theaters (can we stop call them the dollar theaters, or force them to lower the price back to a dollar?).   We never thought 'jeez, we have to run errands again'...we'd always make sure to stop somewhere fun, even if it was just Circle K for a thirstbuster (when we first moved here, we were hooked on their hotdogs with jalepenos!)...we'd make it fun somehow.
     And a memory that strikes me almost everytime I'm heading west on Speedway...that final day that I got to take Kimmy on a Christmas shopping trip to Burlington Coat factory and other stops...Kimmy kept marveling at how beautiful Tucson is...it was as if she was seeing it partially through Heaven already - at one point, on Speedway, she actually started weeping, saying 'it all looks so different, so new, so beautiful...' and for one glowing moment, I felt I could see it that way too...
    I've always had faith and moments like that just reinforced what I already believed.  Kim's faith was so strong, it made mine even stronger - she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was going to Heaven.  But, sometimes, I need reaffirmation...and last Monday, I got that.  As I've written, we've gone to St. Pius for a number of years.  The kids were enrolled there for religious education classes.  Tonio's teacher, Linda, does such a wonderful job there with the children.  She is very involved at her children's schools and in the community, so much like Kim...last week, I had to drop the kids off and run to Kim's primary care physician to sign some medical release forms and when I got back to help out in the class, Linda already had everything well under control and the kids were watching a Bible movie.  I had the chance to sadly tell her we would be switching churces, so the kids could be cared for by Angie's family when I had to go back to work.  She responded by telling me a beautiful story about how she converted to Catholicism about 6 years ago...it seems she was having a difficult labor with her daughter Taylor...in fact, they were losing her, and possibly her baby.  She remembers drifting off and coming to a calm, serene lake...and being greeted by her father, who had passed away some three years previously.  Her father told her everything would be allright and handed her a fishing pole.  She told me that she loved fishing with her father and here she was, having that opportunity to fish with him again.  She said she was totally at peace.  After awhile, her father told her, ok, it is time to fight...and she looked at him questionally, but then understood.  And as she came back up, she could hear her sister and niece praying the Hail Mary for her...Linda, at the time, was a Baptist, and was not familiar with the Hail Mary prayer at the time this occured.
       The doctors were able to save Linda and her little blessing, Taylor, through the grace of God.  Later, she asked 'were my sister and niece here? Where have they gone?'...she was told, no, they had not been at the hospital.  She said, 'but I heard them praying, praying the Hail Mary for me'...She found out later that her sister and niece had been praying Hail Mary's at their church for her, at the time she was being saved! 
       Linda also told me that she appreciated Kimmy's blog and how, although she is a very giving, appreciative person, she has adapted a new attitude of 'I get to do these things today', instead of 'I have to do these things today'...and I've told myself that every day since...she finds this especially helpful on days where it seems there are a lot of errands, etc to do.  I thought about this and the story she shared with me all week, finally getting to speak to Linda today and asking 'why? why did you choose to share these stories with me, at that time, at that moment?'.  Linda explained that she sensed I needed it, that her story might help, at this point in my journey, to help me continue to believe and to be patient, that Kimmy will reach me when the time is right.  I can't tell you the sense of peace her stories gave me last week and I just feel even stronger that our lives become intertwined for specific reasons.  What a huge help Linda was to me, and has been for Antonio and, in another 'small world' story, will be for Cody, when she begins at Desert Sky in a few weeks to sub for Cody's current Algebra teacher, Mrs. Lopez!  Thanks Linda, for allowing me to share your wonderful experience (I hope I related it accurately!!).

         Well, the bambini's were busy today!  After school, we participated in the 'Souper Bowl' at Cottonwood Elementary again this year.  This event is chaired by 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Curtis, who runs the J.O.I.I. club, designed to teach children early the value of community service and helping others.  We made hundreds of tuna sandwiches!!  Oh, the aroma in the MPR room was thick!! 

                                          Tonio makes the Leaning Tower of Tuna!
Autumn works with Mrs. Jefferies on bagging tuna sandwiches

      These students and teachers (Tonio's teacher, Mrs. Schrantz was there, Ms. Bryson, the principal, we there) worked hard to quickly slam together some great lunches for the Casa Maria woman's homeless shelter in downtown Tucson.  Autumn and Tonio had a blast! 
       After a little homework session, we met up with Janene and her boys over at Skate Country for $1 night (no, soft pretzels were not a dollar!), bringing along our neighbor, Alex.  The kids worked got rid of a lot of their wiggles.  I think Cody, Alex and Brendon stopped once for a soda break during the 2 hours session.  And Bryson and Antonio spent about $10 of Janene's and my money on 'treasure' from the little machines they have strategically placed around the rink!  Ahh, and it was warm enough for me to wear shorts today!!
       So, as I run errands, and pass places Kim and I used to stop, it brings back some good memories, and a smile to my face...and I appreciate every moment we shared together...and every moment I get to share with the bambini...and this wonderful community that I am so blessed to be a part of...

        "There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than there is for bread"
                                                                                        -Mother Teresa


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday

    I can't believe today is the Super Bowl...it doesn't seem possible, but yet, here it is!  It still seems like last Sunday, that Kim and I watched the Eagles defeat the Cowboys on Sunday night football...such a good day...
     Let me tell you, Kim always made Super Bowl Sunday special.  When we lived back east, we'd often try to find the bar that was having the best drink specials and which ones were serving free food!  Kim loved wings, so we'd often call around to see what the spread was going to be and choose our destination by menu.
     I loved Super Bowl Sunday out here in Arizona...the very first year we were here, the week of Super Bowl, Kim started to stock up on groceries.  'What's your favorite Super Bowl food?' she'd ask.  I dunno...tacos.  "K".  "How about wings?"...yes, of course, just slightly overcooked, so that they are crispy!  And so it would go...When the Super Bowl dawned, Kimmy would go to work in the kitchen, she made wings, tacos, a big Italian hoagie.  She had chips and dip, pistachios and cashews (my favorites)...finally, I asked her what was going on?  "It's for our Super Bowl party!" she said...Well, I wasn't aware of any party being planned, but I was excited.  Do we have enough beer?  I asked.  "You'd better check!" ...as it got closer to kick off, I said, what time is everyone going to get here?  "Soon" she smiled.
      And then it was time...and it was just Kim and I.  Hey, who's coming to this party?  "You and I" she replied..."Happy Super Bowl Dave".  We had so much fun.  Just the two of us.  Beers, wings, tacos - all of our favorite tail gating type of food.  And the 49ers beat the Chargers.  We were pulling for the Chargers, having fallen in love with San Diego over the past year...but it didn't ruin our 'party'.
     We did that together for many years...and, I found, it sure beat trying to find a good bar to go watch the game.  It was better on my own damn couch, with Kimmy and, of course, her cooking!  Each year, she seemed to out do the year before, too, adding different foods, like panini's or Tuscan bean dip.  And she'd always find neat decorations and football shaped serving dishes or glassware.
    Sometimes, we'd venture over to neighbor's homes to watch the big game, always enjoying the commercials.  Amy and Tom had some great Sonoran  hot dogs one year.  Betsey and Brian have had us over, too - I think that was the year Kim unveiled her twice baked potato skins!  They were crazy good. 
          This year, we  headed over to Angie's cousin Art's house - "Uncle Art" to her girls.  As we left the house, I realized it was the first time in 17 years that I'd be leaving my street to watch a Superbowl.  Once we got to Art's, I was glad I had been invited.  The food spread was fantastic, with shredded beef, beans, rice, cavalacitos, macaroni salads, chips, salsa, etc.  The kids had fun playing football and hide and seek outside.  The HD big screen T.V. was the nicest I've ever watched a game on.  And it has been two months since I've been able to really concentrate enough to watch a whole show.  Kim had made every Super Bowl feel like my own personal holiday, and so it was good to get out of the house and enjoy good company, food and a pretty close game (we were rooting for Pittsburgh, but at least it was not a blow out).  I needed that.

                                               Breanna, Tonio and Bryson enjoy the big game

    We started the morning by going to Our Mother of Sorrows, for the first time in over 10 years...Autumn and Antonio were quiet and reserved, nervous to be starting in new religious education classes.  But, Autumn reconnected with an old gymnastic friend, Sydney, and Tonio did fine, too.  Cody and I went to Mass together and leaned on each other.  Monsignor Tom, who so inspired Kimmy while she was at St. Joseph's, said Mass - he is a great speaker.  After Mass, we took Angie to Viro's and ate way too much.  Vito presented me with a home Juventus jersey with Alessandro Del Piero's name and number on it, that he had brought back from Italy!  We left there and picked up Lexy to hang out with us while we waited to go to the  Super Bowl party and Tonio and I watched "How to Train Your Dragon".  He loves that movie.  You know the rest!
     After a long weekend, the kids start back at school tomorrow...I always miss them after dropping them off.  But, at least the cold snap had passed us and we've enjoyed high 60's temps Saturday and Sunday!!! 
     Tonight, we went out to say goodnight to Kimmy and the moon was so pretty.  I crescent, hanging like the Chesire Cat's grin...Kimmy loved that story, especially the newest movie version starring Johnny Depp...we all commented on it and how pretty the stars looked and how we missed her for the Super Bowl...
      "How is a raven like a writing desk?"
                                      -The Mad Hatter